There’s nothing quite like discovering a planeswalker in a booster pack. They are always better than those found in the pre-built decks and usually command a significant cost due to their mythic rarity. With the 100’s of packs I’ve opened I’ve never found one so imagine my delight and then disappointment when I discovered this guy:
Dovin, Grand Arbiter is a 3 loyalty planeswalker for a modest .
+1: Grants you an extra loyalty point for every creature you control that deals combat damage to a player this turn. An ability that only gains you loyalty isn’t that great to start with but bearing in mind you are likely bringing this out on turn 3, it is unlikely you have many creatures that are able to do combat damage to a player this early. Of course you have things like Ajani’s Pridemate, Artificer’s Assistant, Hunted Witness, Nightveil Sprite, etc but an opponent is more likely to exchange these and then have a meaty card on turn 3 (i.e. The Gigantosaurus that Danny Trejo favours…) to sweep in and do some serious damage.
-1: Creates a 1/1 thopter token and you gain 1 life. Creating little dudes is useful and it’s nice to see Dovin bring some thopters to Ravnica but losing loyalty on an already low-loyalty planeswalker to create a 1/1 (albeit with flying) just doesn’t seem a good trade. Consider that Huatli, Warrior Poet has a 0 loyalty cost ability to create a 3/3 dinosaur with trample (that has wonderful synergy with Forerunner of the Empire to pull off enrage triggers) and this seems pretty bad in comparison1.
-7: Look at the top 10 cards of your library and put 3 in your hand with the rest on the bottom of your library. Now this is a nice ability, especially in a sealed environment where you basically get to rummage through ¼ of your deck. Consider that the only other cards in Standard that are vaguely similar (but far less powerful) are Precognitive Perception and Opt and you can see why this is an ultimate ability. That said, it is highly unlikely you’ll ever trigger this, even more unlikely than most planeswalker ultimates. There are, feasibly, some decks you’d go up against where you could activate the +1 ability and then hit with a few creatures to bump the loyalty up enough to trigger this, but it seems more likely that Dovin would be killed before you get to this stage, especially if you need to use the thopter generation. I don’t envision many match ups where this ever gets triggered.
As I mentioned earlier, it is usually the case that the planeswalkers you find in boosters are far better than those you get in the pre-built decks outside of the number range for a set. That isn’t the case for Dovin in Ravnica Allegiance with his counterpart Dovin, Architect of Law seeming far more useful albeit at twice the mana cost. Notice that his +1 ability gives you immediate benefit (card advantage) and his -1 can stop some big creatures for a turn. He’s also more likely to stick around with his higher loyalty.
Maybe there is some trick I’m missing with this. Let me know in the comments if you’ve had any success with Dovin, Grand Arbiter.
Yes I know Huatli has a higher CMC so her abilities naturally would be better but I still think the comparison is worth noting. ↩︎
This post is part of a weekday series where I open up a booster pack and pick a card to discuss. Whilst these are often the best cards from the set, I'll often pick one that is a bit niche or one that has cool artwork or flavour text. If there's a particular card you want me to take a look at, get in touch or join my Discord community.